Signal Mountain businessman David Soloff – who wanted to open a mobile barbecue kitchen next to Pruett’s Grocery Store – was soundly rebuffed Monday evening by council members after local restaurant owners turned out in force to complain that his proposed operation would put them at an unfair disadvantage.
The town council voted unanimously to deny Mr. Soloff’s request after listening to a series of speakers voice strident opposition to the proposal.
“Believe it or not, I have had more comments on this than on the (proposed property tax) issue,” Vice Mayor Susan Robertson told the assembled crowd. “I get comments like ‘Are we going to have a cotton candy stand next?’ . . . The community doesn’t want it.”
The council’s decision was a major victory for owners of brick-and-mortar restaurants such as Russ Holmes of 517 Subs, who told council members that businesses such as his must pay overhead costs far higher than what would be required of a mobile kitchen.
“My first $200 in sales every day goes to cover” expenses such as rent and insurance, he explained. It’s not fair to allow a business with far lower overhead to open up and possibly put other restaurants which have made substantial investments in the community out of business, he and other food service business representatives said.
Mayor Bill Lusk, who had just returned from Asheville, N.C., where he said a debate over mobile businesses is raging, said he was concerned that approving Mr. Soloff’s request would set a bad precedent.
If one such business were approved, he said, it could become difficult to turn down others. That could make it impossible for brick-and-mortar restaurants to stay in business, he noted, and eventually mobile kitchens might be the only food establishments in the town.